Know Your Consumer Rights

CONSUMER RIGHTS IN INDIA

It is very essential for a consumer to know his rights. Even though the laws to protect the rights of consumers in India are sound and comprehensible, the actual condition of the consumers remains poor. The most important of these laws is the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. This Act was passed by the Indian Parliament to protect consumer rights and to redress consumer complaints and resolve consumer disputes.


In general, the consumer rights in India are listed below:

 Right to Safety

 Right to be informed

 Right to choose

 Right to be heard

 Right to seek redressal

 Right to consumer education


Realizing the condition of the consumers in India, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution incorporated the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) in June 1997. It was constituted as a separate department to give a fillip to the nascent consumer movement in the country.


If there is an infringement of rights of the consumer then a complaint can be made under the following circumstances and reported to the designated Consumer court:

 The goods or services purchased by a person or agreed to be purchased by a person has one or more defects or deficiencies in any respect

 A trader or a service provider resort to unfair or restrictive practices of trade

 A trader or a service provider if charges a price more than the price displayed on the goods or the price that was agreed upon between the parties or the price that was stipulated under any law that exist

 Goods or services that bring a hazard to the safety or life of a person offered for sale, unknowingly or knowingly, that cause injury to health, safety or life.

RIGHT TO SAFETY

According to the Consumer Protection Act 1986, the consumer right is referred to as ‘right to be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property’. Consumers have the right to safety of goods and services that are put into the consumption chain.

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Objects of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 clearly state that it is the right of the consumers to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, standard and price of goods or services so as to be protected against unfair trade practices. Consumers are required to know about the information regarding the products or services that are available for sale because armed with better information; they can make informed decisions, and press for safer products.

It is the duty of the manufacturer/seller of such products or services, to provide the basic information to the consumer. The consumer should believe that goods or services are safe for usage, to remove any reasonable suspicion whether the products or services are unsafe for them.

In the marketplace of India, consumers get information in two ways, namely, advertising and word of mouth. Though these sources are considered to be unreliable, word of mouth is quite common in India. Because of this, the Indian consumers hardly have precise and complete information for assessing the true value, safety, suitability, reliability of any product.

To secure this right, Consumer Councils and various authorities have been created at District, State, and National levels. However, even today, there are many consumer goods in India that do not follow the standardized labeling convention. Take medicines for example. The pharmaceuticals are required to disclose potential side effects of their drugs and manufacturers should publish reports from independent product testing laboratories in order to facilitate a comparative analysis with the competitive product. But there is no such thing in practice.

RIGHT TO CHOOSE

The right to choose means a right to be assured, wherever possible, of access to a variety of goods and services at a competitive price. The producer, supplier or retailer should not force the customer to buy a particular brand only. Thus, the concept of a competitive market where many sellers sell similar products must be established, so that it ensures that the consumer can actually choose what to consume and in what quantity. In the case of monopolies, the right to choose means right to be assured of satisfactory quality and service at a fair price.

RIGHT TO BE HEARD

As stated in the Consumer Protection Act 1986, ‘the right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums’ is the definition of the right to be heard.

RIGHT TO REDRESSAL

The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers’ is referred to as the right to redressal according to the Consumer Protection Act 1986. This right assures justice to the consumer against exploitation. It also includes right to a fair settlement of the genuine grievances of the consumer.

The government of India has been a bit more successful with regard to this right. The Consumer courts like District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums at the district level, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions have been incorporated with the help of the consumer protection act.

RIGHT TO CONSUMER EDUCATION

Consumer awareness is a need of present days. It means the right to acquire the knowledge and skill needed to become an informed service receiver for or on behalf of persons with disabilities, their caregivers or families throughout their lives.

The right of every Indian citizen to have education on matters regarding consumer protection as well as about her/his right is regarded as the last right provided by the Consumer Protection Act 1986. These rights flow from the rights enshrined in Articles 14 to 19 of the Constitution of India. Ignorance of consumers, particularly of rural consumers, is mainly responsible for their exploitation. They should know their rights and must exercise them. It also includes educating the consumer as to what, where, when, how and how much to buy and to use what they have bought.

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